Our view: George vs. the aldermen

November 3, 2011 4:06:00 PM



Caledonia, the little town that could, can at times be a fractious place. At least that's the case where the board of aldermen and its sometimes contentious mayor, George Gerhart, are concerned. (For more detail, please see Carmen K. Sisson's report in Wednesday's Dispatch.) 


Town Attorney Jeff Smith, a seasoned diplomat who understands this community as well as anyone, characterized the relationship this way: "It would be untrue to say they fight all the time, but ... the majority of the board and the mayor do not get along very well." 


Not very well at all. 


A few weeks ago we offered an ill-advised thorn to the aldermen for not responding to Gerhart's request for Christmas Parade volunteers. Seems the mayor had already alienated the board, and when he needed their help, they all had cakes to bake. Wonder if their response would have been different had they known Gerhart filed an ethics complaint days earlier against aldermen who had gathered to plan Caledonia Day festivities. Probably not. 


While we are the first to scream foul over an illegal meeting (The legality of a Sept. 13 meeting is in question.), we think the mayor went a little overboard playing tattletale on his aldermen for planning a community festival that, with the possible exception of the Christmas parade, is the biggest thing that happens in that town each year. 


In a place the size of Caledonia (and even Columbus or Starkville), it's often the same people who show up to help with community events. And while elected officials shouldn't be conducting city business outside a legal -- and properly announced -- meeting, planning a town celebration that has gone on for years is a rather benign undertaking. That said, we urge the aldermen and Lawyer Smith to be ever mindful of the laws to which they are bound. 


We also urge Gerhart to seek less contentious ways of resolving differences with his aldermen. We're sure Caledonia voters would say the same.